tv Jihadis You Pay For - Panorama BBC News December 6, 2017 3:30am-4:01am GMT
now on bbc news, panorama. on panorama tonight, a scandal involving british aid money. the idea the british taxpayers‘ money was associated with that would of course be wholly abhorrent. we discover how a police force in syria is being funded with bags of our cash. to see british money being held in a bag, i honestly only saw that on movies. it was deeply shocking. we expose how our aid money can end up with jihadis. it is unfortunately strengthening the extremists and the islamic groups. and we reveal how police officers we pay for work with a brutaljustice system. they were putting their hands in front of their eyes, and we are not seeing anything. britain is generous when it comes
well under the new system. adam smith international — their offices are just across the riverfrom parliament. in the last five years, adam smith international, asi, as won british aid contracts worth more than £537 million. adam smith international say they bring expertise and deliver results. but earlier this year, asi was banned from new government contracts after serious questions were raised about the compa ny‘s ethical integrity. at the moment, asi have proved themselves to be an inappropriate
company to spend such large amounts of aid money. what we are worried about is that asi is already operating a number of contracts that haven't been terminated because they were already in process. asi still has a major project running in syria. it is managed from across the border in turkey. i have come to gaziantep, the front lines of british aid going into syria. it is delivered by a network of syrians because it's too dangerous for foreigners to cross the border. i'm on my way to meet someone who works trying to implement aid programmes inside syria, paid for by british taxpayers.
what he saw happening there made him decide to become a whistle—blower. waseem enawi helped manage a project for adam smith international in syria. but he says they ignored warnings that british aid money was being misused. what sort of problems did you begin to see very early on and on the ground? this is british taxpayers‘ money? waseem is not alone.
we have spoken to ten people who have worked on the adam smith international project in syria. they want british aid to rebuild their country, but they are shocked by what they have seen. some don't want to be identified. translation: most of these problems were related to corruption. is there any chance that adam smith could not know what was happening on the ground? no, of course they knew. and is corruption at the bottom of all this? exactly. we would have expected that to happen in third world communities. but to see this with a british company, we were shocked. the syrian people desperately need
british aid, but it is difficult to deliver in such a war—torn and risky environment. there does need to be oversight and accountability, and just because it's a war zone doesn't mean that everybody gets a free pass, and can spend money willy—nilly, without being accountable for the decisions they take. this promotional video shows uk aid at work. britain is one of the main donor countries funding the free syrian police. this year alone, we have promised £9 million. adam smith international runs the project, paying the police wages, providing uniforms, equipment and stations. theirjob is to make communities safer in areas held by opponents
of the syrian regime. but our whistle—blowers say something has gone badly wrong with the police. panorama has obtained hundreds of internal asi documents. they show what happened to aid money after it was given to the company, and whose hands it sometimes ended up in. when you read all these internal documents from the company, it's extraordinary. the language is bland, but what they are describing is awful. it is human rights abuses, executions, it is police that are obviously we can have been co—opted by the military groups. maybe there was underestimation
of how bad things could get in certain aspects. and the more disturbing bit is the repetition of these incidents over time. the documents say that dead and fictitious people were on the police payroll. i want to find out more. i'm going to talk to someone who is working for asi in turkey are alongside senior management. he has been across many of the details of their project in syria. what he's about to tell me
could lose him hisjob. he says there is fraud that many of the police stations the british government been funding. translation: it was found that stations didn't exist at all, and still the aid continued. even now, we hear reports about stations that don't exist, and this is still being overlooked. one "ghost" police station is here in koknaya, in northern syria. this is the actual building. it's pretty small, but is supposed to be the base for 57 police officers. partly paid for by us. but our leaked documents show that, when one of asi's staff visited the station last september, there were no police present, and that was causing concern. translation: the police station in koknaya is an illusion.
it's just words on paper. so salaries were sent for the officers, but in reality, there were no policemen on the ground. we need to know that that money was going to support actual policemen on the ground, doing a job that met our policy objectives. and certainly your investigations, and the briefings you've had from people on the ground, that plainly, that wasn't happening. asi's lawyers told us, on a later visit to koknaya, all officers were accounted for, and presented valid id. but they have now suspended the payment of all salaries at the police station, and across syria, they have only been able to identify a few examples where deceased officers have remained on a stipend or salary list. there is an increased risk of this type of fraud, because the project is funded in cash.
our leaked documents show hundreds of thousands of dollars being regularly delivered to asi's office in turkey. syrian police chiefs then collect bags of cash, which they transfer across the border. i have always thought that there are standards when it comes to handling money. and then to see, again, british money being held in a bag, and i — honestly, i only saw that on movies. it was deeply shocking. asi says donors like the british government have full knowledge of the payments, and cash is used because there is no practical alternative. but it's what happens to that cash when it gets over the border into syria that really matters.
we have discovered some of it ends up in the hands of extremists. our aid money is funding jihadis. this part of northern syria is controlled by four fighters from a group called nour al dine al zinki. the americans originally supported zinki in the war against the assad regime, but cut them off in 2015 following accusations of atrocities. last year, the group beheaded a young prisoner. it was clear by 2016 that nour al dine al zinki had committed violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. for them, summary killings or executions were something very normal.
but we have discovered that british aid money was routinely given to the extremists by the free syrian police, or fsp. youssef houran is a lawyer who worked for the civil administration in an area dominated by zinki. translation: zinki used to get a percentage from the salaries of the free syria police. it was taking a percentage in return for their services, and to create a sort of equilibrium between the police and the fighters. was this practice of sharing the fsp salary between the fsp and zinki, was it systematic in the area? how widespread was it? exactly — it was systematic, not random, and it was run by the civil
administration of zinki. the documents show that asi and the british government knew about money going to zinki at the end of 2015. and another report, seven months later, warns of the transferring of 20% of police salaries. the cash is to pay for the military and security support that zinki provides to the five stations in areas under its control. that's our money extorted by extremists. and the company's internal documents make it clear that zinki's misuse of the funds, essentially british funds, went on, because they say the persistent refusal of the group to relax the level of financial control its exerting over the fsp sets a dangerous precedent, a dangerous precedent. but they didn't stop.
they went on. asi say they recommended stopping funding. but the donors, including the british government, initially disagreed. funding to the station wasn't stopped until ten months after the payments were first discovered. our taxpayer funded police weren't just paying protection money to zinki, they've been helping the extremists run theirjustice system too. so the lawyers give you information from inside the country? yeah, yeah. human rights lawyer samer al deyaei documents the abuses in zinki's courts. translation: people aren't getting their basic rights, which can lead to miscarriages ofjustice. they could be imprisoned, tortured, or sentenced to death. zinki runs its own court
at al-qasimiya and this make shift prison. mahmoud bitar was held in that prison in 2014. britain was funding the free syrian police, but it was just before asi took over the contract. mahmoud says the police officers we pay for were his prison guards. they would put a bag over his head before taking him to zinki interrogators. the free policeman he said, i'm sorry, i have to blind fold your eyes. i put that small bag on your head.
i'm sorry, i have to do it. they were there 21w. they are there all the time. and of course, free police they knew what was going on. they knew, of course. mahmoud says he was tortured and so were other prisoners. i cannot forget that time, that bad time that i've been inside that detention facility in there. keep on hearing the same voices you know, inside your ears, you know, all the time. the torture, screaming, guys of pain. it will remain with you till the end of your life. can you not forget what happened in there. the police officers we fund are still working in zinki's
barbaric system and the british government knows it's happening. a report this year said the police cooperate with the zinki court by writing up warrants, delivering notices, and turning criminals over to the court. translation: the criminal would get transferred to the al-qasimiya court because that is the nearest relevant court. some people are still getting tortured. some people are still disappearing. asi told us they didn't want to leave a security vacuum by stopping funding for the police. and they have strict guidelines in place to ensure anyone detained is treated fairly and humanely. plainly some of the operation of what passed for a justice system
looked utterly appalling to our standards. but we've had to make ugly compromises and the result has been probably the money spent on the free syrian police, it's largely been wasted as far as achieving british policy objectives is concerned. we've discovered more disturbing evidence about the free syrian police. this time in the province of idlib. this area is run by the syrian branch of al-anda, jabhat al nusra. al—nusra's been labelled a terrorist group by the british government. but that hasn't stopped the uk helping set up more than 30 police stations here. there is high concern, especially in idlib,
we're aware completely of the level of influence that jabhat al nusra has in every community. but do we have enough tools to safeguard ourselves, that was not necessarily the case. there is a high risk working with people who are not vetted. the risks were especially high in this town, kafr diryan. asi staff first warned of al—nusra's malign influence here in the spring of 2015. a report almost a year later identified six police officers, who had been imposed on the station by al—nusra. it says police boss as greed to pay the men to avoid any problems with them. when asi investigated further, they found the new station commander had also been hand picked
by the extremists. they were paying their salaries? asi told us, the issue was detected within two months and funding to the station halted. only $1800 was paid to the al—nusra appointed officers. they say that cash was provided by a different donor government, not the uk. but asi didn't explain how they could be sure it wasn't british money, when the whole project is funded by cash. now more police stations are being opened in areas controlled by al—nusra.
despite the dangers. translation: you cannot operate without being involved with al—nusra. sometimes you can't even work if you don't pay them a part of the money you receive. we call that atawa, protection racket in arabic. but unfortunately they're turning a blind eye to it, to ensure the continuity of the project. al—nusra also runs a so—called justice system. they carry out executions, including stonings, in parts of northern syria. this is the kind ofjustice that the police force we pay for is collaborating with.
asi says donors were aware police were working with an al—nusra court and approved further funding after assurances this had stopped. but asi's own documents show the police carried on cooperating with al—nusra. it says the fsp station has been known to transfer criminals to the dar al-qada, the court, for sentencing. it goes on to say that they knew they implemented court decisions in violation of international human rights law. and it gets worse. officers from the british funded police were present when two women were stoned to death in another
part of northern syria. the police chief claimed they were "accidentally passing by". that's not what we've been told. i've just heard that someone inside syria is prepared to talk to me tonight, someone who used to work for asi. so i'm going to try and call him now. hello? oh, hi, it'sjane. hijane. our source says the police weren't just there by accident. so they were actually involved in cordoning off the area where the stoning was to take place? if that is true amnesty
would be very concerned that the free syrian police would actually, you know, take part in such a horrific violation. asi's lawyers say the stoning incident was less than five weeks after our client assumed responsibility for the project. and the police involved were not formally officers under fsp control, but they've since been removed permanently. so how did a british aid project ever get involved
with extremist courts? you've got people being sentenced to death for homosexuality. clearly that is completely and utterly unacceptable by any standards. and the idea that british taxpayers' money was associated with that, would be wholly abhorrent. the british government declined to be interviewed, but it's now suspended funding for the syrian police project, while it investigates our allegations. it told us the work in syria is important to protect our national interest and all our programmes are designed carefully and subject to robust monitoring. asi says it strongly refutes panorama's allegations and has managed taxpayers' money effectively to confront terrorism and bring security to syria. we've revealed how british aid has
supported extremists and their brutal form ofjustice. i think the government's been incredibly slow to act on all of this. what i'd really like to see is the government taking proper responsibility for the way that this money is spent. you simply can't operate aid project like that with so little scrutiny or accountability. it took the bravery of our syrian whistle—blowers to get real action. they were like they are, putting their hands in front of their eyes and like we are not seeing anything. unfortunately the money of british taxpayers is being spent very poorly.
it is unfortunately strengthening the extremists and the islamic groups, who are currently in control of the majority of opposition areas. britain may be a generous country, but our investigation raises serious questions about how we hand out our cash. and whether we're always helping the people who need it most. welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. our top stories: president trump is expected to recognisejerusalem as the capital of israel later. arab leaders warn it could fuel violence. russia is banned from next year's winter olympics, in south korea, after allegations of state—sponsored doping. the terror threat in britain.